Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming film “Noah” was on the agenda at the NRB International Christian Media Convention on Sunday, amid ongoing debate over just how closely the film will stick to the biblical text.
An evening panel moderated by National Religious Broadcasters CEO Jerry Johnson included Hollywood filmmaker and media consultant Phil Cooke and John Snowden, who was a biblical adviser for the “Noah” film.
All three acknowledged that there has been contention over the film and expressed varying levels of support for the motion picture. There were no representatives from Paramount Pictures, the film company reported to have been embroiled in a battle over final cut rights with Aronofsky.
Audience members were given packets titled, “Why People of Faith Can Embrace Noah,” a treatise of sorts that provided 10 reasons from Snowden’s perspective why the film deserves the faith community’s support.
“[The ‘Noah’ team was] adamant that a biblical consultant come in,” Snowden told the audience. “They always wanted to honor what they were reading in the text, so they never … had an agenda to mock anything. They were actually very proactive … the fact that they literally built the ark to spec is notable.”
Snowden said the “Noah” team was open to his suggestions, though he joked that he feared he’d be fired every time he sent an email critiquing various elements of the film.
But rather than chastise him, Snowden said that Aronofsky and his team were open and “genuinely seeking” throughout the production process.
Cooke admitted there are some questionable elements in the film – tidbits and pieces of the storyline that some Christians might see as extra-biblical.
“Paramount Studios is not a Christian organization,” Cooke said. “One thing you’ll find in this film, certainly the Noah story is very short … you have to figure out what happened to the boat … they do fill in stuff.”
While he said he wasn’t endorsing every element of the film, Cooke asked Christians the question: “For 10 years or more we’ve been asking Hollywood to create biblical films. Now that they’re doing it, do we really want to get upset with them?”
He also said that Christians who protest Hollywood projects often make things harder for believers who are embedded in the entertainment field.
“There are hundreds of Christians working in the industry at a lot of levels,” Cooke said. “Those are the Josephs of our generation. They’re working in a often hostile environment trying to make change happen from the inside.”
Johnson also posed a question for Christians, asking whether there’s a place for stories inspired but not entirely based on the Bible. Having seen the film, he said that “Noah” “takes sin very seriously.”
He was, however, the most direct in highlighting his own personal critiques.
“There are negatives … some of you, you’re going to cringe when you see some of the details in some of the scenes. You’re going to take a double take,” he told the audience.
For instance, at one point Noah is preaching to his family and telling the story of creation – one that is presented through an evolutionary lens, albeit a theistic one.
“You see transitional forms morphing … I will say it is theistic and there is a clean break when it comes to Adam and Eve. They’re not in the morph,” he said. “There’s a very clear intentional break here. This isn’t [prominent atheist author] Richard Dawkins.”
Snowden said there was a great deal of back and forth over how creation should have been handled. When the issue of making “a hard break between monkeys and people” was suggested, Snowden said that the makers of “Noah” listened.
Johnson also noted that environmental sin is a theme that might be a turn-off to some.
“Noah’s character is conflicted about whether or not human beings should survive,” he added. “I think he borders on looking crazy and it’s hard to match that to the Genesis text … I just think it’s overdone.”
Rather than lambaste the film, Johnson said that “Noah” should serve as an opportunity for Christians to share their faith.
“Why don’t we turn it into something evangelistic?” he asked.
The general sentiment from the panel was that it would be wise for Paramount to put a disclaimer before the film that denotes that “Noah” was inspired by the story, but that it does not stick strictly to the biblical account.
With tension at the center of much of the publicity surrounding the movie, the presence of “Noah” at the International Christian Media Convention was notably different from the representation of other Hollywood films.
“Noah” wasn’t screened — an oddity considering that it seemed to be a good venue for simply showing the film and cutting down on the debate. And it was seemingly the only movie for which a special event was set aside to educate Christians about the production process.
Repeated attempts by TheBlaze to speak with Aronofsky about the theological contents of the film have not received a response.
Read more about the debate here.
Featured image via NoahMovie.com/Paramount